Mahoosuc Community Broadband Committee Report

0

Earlier this month, the committee submitted a progress report and recommendations to select councils in the five towns – Bethel, Gilead, Greenwood, Newry, Woodstock – which are working together to extend high-speed broadband to residents of the region. The report was also sent to Oxford County, which represents the two unorganized territories — Albany and Milton — that are also part of this effort.

The report provides a summary of the committee’s work since last September, which focused on evaluating several strategic approaches to broadband expansion, and proposals from Internet service providers for implementing the strategies. Here are the highlights of the report:

Expand existing private ISP networks: While this approach was favored by some participating boards, the committee was generally disappointed with the proposals from incumbent vendors in the region, Charter/Spectrum and FirstLight.

Charter’s proposal would install new fiber networks in currently unserved areas, but leave subscribers who currently have Charter’s service with older cable technology connections. While FirstLight’s initial proposals would extend its fiber network to serve the entire region, it allocated 75% of the project cost to cities. The committee is currently awaiting another proposal from FirstLight.

Broadband Service District: This approach was not a priority for the selected boards, but given the disappointing responses from incumbents, the committee decided to explore it. GWI — a Maine-based internet service provider with extensive experience building and operating its own private networks — submitted a utility district proposal to the committee.

GWI’s proposed approach would build a new fiber optic network that would serve the entire region and create an independent broadband utility district. As presented, this approach would require little or no direct investment from municipalities. GWI would construct, operate and maintain the utility district network. The committee is gathering more information to assess the viability, risk and difficulty of this approach.

Fixed Wireless: This approach was not initially considered by the committee. However, after learning about a new technology that has demonstrated its potential to overcome the challenges of signal interference from hills and trees, the committee invited a preliminary proposal from Redzone, which is deploying this technology. The committee was impressed with the lower cost and quick timeliness of this approach and is awaiting state evaluation of the new technology and eligibility for a grant.

Advertisement

In addition to the progress report, the committee has created a series of short videos featuring local leaders speaking about the need and importance of broadband broadband for business, education, telehealth and community well-being. These videos and the progress report can be viewed at mainewest.org/mahoosuc-broadband-committee.html.

Share.

Comments are closed.